Two Mexican cardinals, a bishop, and three priests have been convicted of constitutional violations for warning the public against the ruling party’s opposition to the values of human life and family, their advocacy of the LGBT agenda, and their promotion of socialism.
The convictions have caused alarm in Mexico regarding their implications for freedom of speech and the right to criticize the socialist ruling party “Morena,” which is accused of undermining Mexican civil liberties.
Among the convicted were the Cardinal Archbishop of Mexico City, Carlos Aguiar Retes, and the former archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez. The decision was handed down on November 18 by Mexico’s national Electoral Tribunal in response to a lawsuit filed by Mexico’s ruling socialist party, the Movement for Social Regeneration (MORENA).
One of the tribunal judges, Villafuerte Coello, denounced the accused clerics for encouraging Catholics “to pray and ask God to illuminate them when they vote,” in a video transmission of her statements during the proceedings.
“Of course that mustn’t be permitted,” said Cuello. “Votes aren’t celestial or spiritual things. This is about deciding votes with knowledge, with information, apart from pondering other things and this is just what must be respected, because celestial inspiration is not going to cause the best people to be in popularly elected positions. It’s logical.”
“Those who issued the messages are people who are expressly prohibited from doing so by the constitution, given their status as ministers of religious worship,” stated the tribunal in its written decision. “Therefore, because they have relevant influence over those who profess the Catholic faith, they were impeded from stating their position with respect to the elections, as well as from inciting people to vote in favor or against a political organization or candidate involved in the election.”
The primary target of the tribunal’s wrath was Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, who was convicted both of interfering in a national election as well as violating the constitution’s separation of Church and state.
According to the court, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez offended the constitution by stating, in a YouTube video of June 2 of this year, “There is much at stake in these elections. If those who are in power win, a dictatorship will come, that is, liberty will be lost, because we’re talking about a system that is communist, socialist, that enslaves. You just need to look at the countries that have fallen into it.” He also warned that the economy of Mexico would be “very damaged . . . we’re going to be very poor like Venezuela, like Cuba.”
Sandoval also expressed his concern that “the good of the family and of [human] life are at stake, because this government has adopted gender ideology, which brings with it all of the unnatural barbarities that they can unleash, which can impede and destroy the family,” as well as bringing about “abortion, express divorce, homosexuality, and homosexual marriage.” Also at stake was “religious liberty,” said the cardinal, because “the communist-Marxist system asks for it, demands it.”
To avoid these outcomes, Sandoval encouraged the “majority in Mexico that believes in God and in his providence, to pray much for Him to enlighten and help us,” to ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for her aid, and to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He also encouraged Mexicans to “do their civic duty” and vote, and not “leave the field free to evildoers.”
Sandoval has refused to apologize for his statements and doubled down in early October, repeating his call not to vote for pro-abortion politicians.
Although Cardinal Aguiar Retes told the court that he did not intend to specify any political party, and noted that he had not made any statement about the elections in 2021, he was was convicted for statements he made in a public video message in 2018, which was re-published on Twitter in 2021.
“Today I want to give you a very clear message, to continue inviting the Catholic faithful to express our will by voting,” said Aguiar Retes several months prior to the elections that year. “Second, to vote in a rational way, investigating which candidate can govern us better, particularly which candidate can guarantee to us that the fundamental values of our faith, like the right to life, the right to a stable family, the right to education, the right to religious liberty, can be made a reality . . . Third, that we make our vote a completely free one, that we don’t allow ourselves to be influenced by polls.”
Among the convicted were also the Bishop of Cancún-Chetumal, Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cárdenas, and two priests: Fr. Ángel Espinosa de los Monteros Gómez Haro and Fr. Mario Ángel Flores Ramos. The latter is the former rector of the Pontifical University of Mexico.
Elizono Cárdenas named no party in his statements, only noting that “the Catholic Church has always condemned communism, because it is an atheist system, because it is a system that represses fundamental liberties,” and encouraged people to consider the effects of their votes on issues such as abortion, family values, and religious liberty.
Fr. Flores Ramos gave a long list of complaints about the existing government but without naming names nor political parties. Fr. Gómez Haro encouraged listeners to “ask God for the light to vote in a responsible way,” and asserted that “we never had such a bad government – not one vote, not one vote for irresponsible people, for the culture of death and division.”
Their case has now been passed to the country’s Secretariat of Governance to determine the penalty that will be applied. The Secretariat has the discretion to apply merely a warning or a fine up to the equivalent of 150,000 USD.
Mexico’s constitution has had expressly anti-clerical provisions since 1917, when revolutionaries under US-backed leader Venustiano Carranza sought to consolidate the country’s secularist and anti-Catholic regime with a new charter document. The 1917 constitution prohibited the clergy from wearing their garb in public, voting in elections, intervening in politics, and teaching pre-adolescent children.
Although various restrictions on the activities of religious ministers were relaxed in the early 1990s, the constitution continues to prohibit them from holding public office and from participation in politics. Religions can only erect churches after being registered with the federal government.
“Ministers cannot associate for political purposes nor proselytize in favor or against any candidate, party, or political association,” states article 130 of the constitution. “Neither can they oppose the laws of the country or its institutions, in acts of worship or of religious propaganda, nor in publications of a religious nature, nor offend national symbols in any way.”
Previous attempts to penalize Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez for expressing his political opinions have failed on at least two occasions in the last decade.
When the nation’s Supreme Court voted to uphold Mexico City’s pro-abortion legislation, the cardinal implied that the city’s Chief of Government, Marcel Ebrard, had in some way influenced the court, and Ebrard filed suit against him for defamation. After Sandoval promised to produce his proof in court, Ebrard quietly dropped the suit in 2014. An investigation was also initiated by Mexico’s Secretariat of Governance into possible violations of the constitution and federal law, but it was later closed with no charges filed.
In 2015 homosexual activists filed lawsuits against Sandoval Íñiguez for denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down state laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Sandoval called the decision a “perversion” of marriage and decried the lack of opposition from other Mexican bishops. However, it appears the suit was quietly dropped.
The Morena regime is taking a stricter interpretation of the law and is now openly seeking to penalize the country’s Catholic clergy for objecting to anti-life and anti-family policies.
Alarm from both secular and religious organizations
The decision to convict the clerics by the tribunal has been met with alarm not only by Catholic prelates but also by civil organizations and the media, which have expressed concern that the federal government is overstretching its authority and prohibiting the free expression of ideas.
The government has issued two statements in recent months warning members of the clergy not to involve themselves in politics, and threatening to fine and even shut down the churches of those who do so.
On June 3 of this year, the Secretariat of Governance tweeted, “In this first call, Governance reminds the Churches that the Mexican constitution and the Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship concretely prohibits intervention in electoral processes.”
The Secretariat reportedly threatened to apply various penalties, including massive fines, “temporary or permanent closure” of churches, and even the “cancellation of the registry” of the religious association in question.
The organization “Republican Mexico” (“Mexico Republicano”) which supports limited government and opposes ideological extremism, has written an open letter to the Secretariat of Governance expressing its concern regarding the condemnation of Catholic clergy for speaking out on political issues, noting that they did not name any political parties.
“Republican Mexico regards is concerned by the sentence issued by the . . . Electoral Tribunal . . . in verdict SRE-PSC-0188-2021, through which it determined that various prelates of the Catholic Church violated the principle of separation of Church and State, for the mere reason that they freely expressed their ideas regarding certain topics,” stated the organization in its letter.
The issued discussed by the clergymen, “although they may also have been addressed by some political party in its electoral platform or campaign proposals, cannot be considered topics that are exclusive to the electoral races, but are topics of national discussion at every social, academic, and political level, and even within the religious sphere,” they added, asking that the secretariat take into account the commitment to human rights in the constitution, and “not apply any penalty” in the case.
The general secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mexico, Ramón Castro, made two tweets several days after the decision that were perceived as a response to the ruling.
On the Feast of Christ the King, November 21, Castro tweeted, “We are very attentive, because we must defend the Truth of the Reign of God. Today they want to silence us for defending that Truth. Let us be truthful and coherent, and let us live in the liberty of the Gospel.”
Castro also tweeted a famous photo of the Cristeros, who fought to defend the liberty of the Catholic Church in the 1920s, with the word, “LET US STRUGGLE” superimposed over it, and a quote from a famous Cristero song, “The soldiers are prepared, they enlist to fight. They have become soldiers to defend the truth,” followed by the statement “LET US ALWAYS STUGGLE FOR THE TRUTH, the real truth, not what they sell as the truth, that they impose as true.”
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